The novel “Be My Enemy” by Ian McDonald was published for the first time in 2012. It’s the second book in the Everness series and follows “Planesrunner“.
Everett Singh is on the run on the airship Everness, of which he became a crew member. He hasn’t given up on finding his father, but it’s an almost impossible deed considering the amount of existing parallel universes. The next step requires a journey that could be very dangerous on a world that for some reason is quarantined.
Everett M Singh lost his father and he almost died too. Saved thanks to the use of alien technology, his body has been greatly modified giving him superhuman abilities. This has a price and Charlotte Villers sends him to hunt for his alter-ego, for whom he sets a trap.
“Be My Enemy” begins where “Planesrunner” ended and is its direct continuation. For this reason, you need to have already read the first book of the series since it forms one great story split into three parts. The concept of parallel universes is further exploited, also because the presence of different versions of some characters becomes crucial in the plot.
The Everness series is a young adult product but that doesn’t mean its quality is low. Ian McDonald is a great writer who can create an interesting fictional universe, or a multiverse, with a plot and at least some characters that are well-developed with progress compared to the first novel. All this is done while keeping the story linear and having a teenager as its protagonist.
In “Planesrunner” the readers learned to know Everett Singh, a brilliant boy able to exploit the invention his father had left him before being kidnapped by mysterious people. His chance meeting with Sen, the daughter of the airship Everness’s captain, allowed him to react to those events to try to find him again also making him understand the vastness of the existing parallel universes ensemble.
In “Be My Enemy” Ian McDonald expands everything that was introduced in the first book. Thanks to the trips to other parallel universes, we discover their differences from ours. These trips can also be dangerous as one of the universes is quarantined and we discover the reason for such a drastic measure.
More parallel universes also means new possibilities for the characters to meet their alter-egos or those of people they know. This allows to create a mirror dance that, however, gives distorted images because two versions of the same person are never the same. The differences between Everett Singh and his alter-ego is an important part of the plot.
These meetings allow Ian McDonald to better develop the important characters, along with other interactions such as the ones that happen on board the airship Everness. They give more depth to the members of his crew and I think they’re one of the best parts of the novel.
Even Charlotte Villers seems less of a caricature than in “Planesrunner” also thanks to her interaction with her alter-ego, who in her case is a man. However, she remains a not particularly realistic villain but initially she was really a pantomime villain and therefore a weak element of the first novel
With the addition of new threats, the situation for Everett Singh and the airship Everness crew becomes more complex, also in ethical and moral terms. In “Be My Enemy” there are different factions with different agendas going well beyond a clear division between good and bad and a clash between them.
In the end, however, the main element of the Everness series is the adventure so there’s far more action than reflections, which are sometimes far from profound. The pace is very fast and adrenalinic for the constant threats to the protagonists.
Overall, “Be My Enemy” confirmed the good impression I had with the first novel despite the strongly young adult setting. This second novel doesn’t have a real ending either so if you think it’s interesting keep in mind that you need to read the whole trilogy.